Belgium’s new King Philippe will apply a reform of the royal finances approved by the government last month, a political gesture in keeping with the austerity of the times. He and his queen and father will be spared cuts, but the other members of the family will see allowances paid by the state reduced. All of them will finally lose their exemptions from income tax and 21% VAT.
The royal official budget, known as the ‘Civil List’, in Belgium runs to roughly 11 million euros, most of that for salaries and the rest to cover palatial maintenance and bills. The Civil List must enable the King to carry out his constitutional tasks.
Anti-monarchists chafe at the costs of a monarchy but others insist it’s been proven that republics are more expensive.
Anyway, in Belgium, a country with serious financial problems, more than half of what the monarchy costs is not covered in the king’s budget but by various ministries.
These so-called ‘hidden costs’ run to an additional nearly 18 million euros per year.
The Federal State also grants a “dotation” to various members of the Royal Family. The principle, officially, is to preserve royal function in moral and material independence. Under the reform, in future, state support to most of them will end. But for now, not only the new king is accorded an allowance, but his brother and sister, although those allowances have been reduced.
The widow of the late King Baudoin, Queen Fabiola, has had her 1.4 million divided by three. In graphic terms, the next figures are already revised, for the new king – nearly a million – and his siblings Astrid and Laurent – who don’t have much of a role but will still get more than 300,000 a year.
The total cost of Belgium’s monarchy then tops 30 million euros. The reform actually shaved away around one million euros – but then the future taxing of the royals’ purses will bring in a bit, too.
The outgoing King Albert will also keep his annual tax-free allowance of 11.5 million euros. His personal fortune, largely inherited, according to official accounting, is only 12.4 million – the palace website acknowledging a yacht and a spot in the south of France – but unofficial expert opinions put it closer to one billion euros, with property and contents valued at some 780 million.
Although rich in prestige and history, in this divided kingdom of austerity and political uncertainty, the monarchy is largely a ceremonial position.